It's pretty rare to see the lead singer of a major hard rock band in a venue as small, classy and acoustically pleasing as University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts.
That's just one of the reasons why Wednesday night's solo performance from Aaron Lewis, lead singer of Staind, was noteworthy, whether you're a longtime fan or not.
Judging from the audience reaction, Staind has a staying power and fan base that many bands who emerged from the same era -- the mid-90s would envy. The Center for the Arts was packed, and the crowd exploded with shouts, applause and cell phone photos as Lewis strode onto the stage. In an interview last week, Lewis said the solo concerts have shown him just how important his band is to many, while also offering a chance for listeners to look at songs such as "It's Been Awhile" and "Outside" in a more mellow light.
Mellow was the name of the game as Lewis opened with "So Far Away," one of Staind's prettiest and simplest songs. This vibe carried into much of Lewis' interaction with the crowd. From the first note came calls for some of the covers he's played on this tour, such as Pearl Jam's "Black," but timing is important -- "It's a little early for covers," Lewis replied.
It wasn't surprising to see so many flashbulbs going off, but it did prove a tad distracting in such an intimate setting. This didn't bother Lewis, but spotting a video camera did. "Are you going to record the whole thing? You're not even supposed to have a camera in here," Lewis scolded the fan. "It makes me very uncomfortable up here. For real."
The crowd was clearly on the singer's side, but he felt a need to further explain his reaction. "I feel really foolish about the whole thing," he said a few minutes later, adding that he hates the idea of such a video showing up on YouTube or MySpace to be viewed and commented on by those who weren't in attendance. "They didn't experience what we're doing tonight -- I'm sharing this with you people."
It was a candid moment, and in some ways encapsulated the tone of the entire night -- a singer preaching to his fans, and his fans paying him back with rapt attention. Lewis' early song choices included Staind favorites "Zoe Jane," "Fill Me Up" and "Please," which showcased one of the bands most noticeable traits -- its lyrical darkness.
He even made light of this fact when introducing the song "Something Like Me."
"Here's another happy one for you," Lewis said with a chuckle.
Wednesday night in UB Center for the Arts.